Four weeks ago I was planning out the show season for 19-year-old Dorado and me. I was planning with my friends and trainer to go cross-country schooling, and I was starting to learn the dressage tests I’d be riding throughout the year. Our goals were set, and I was so excited to reach them.

And then, our plans changed. Dorado—a fit, active, and healthy Thoroughbred gelding of a nearly ideal weight, living in a small paddock with just a little grass to nibble on—foundered.

Cryotherapy is often recommended for horses with acute laminitis.

Photo: Erica Larson

Long story short: The first few days were touch-and-go. His X rays didn’t look horrible, but he was very painful. Slowly, though, he started walking better in his cushioned boots. We hit a little bump in the road when a second set of radiographs showed that his coffin bone had sunk a few millimeters, and our vet quickly conferred with a veterinary podiatrist at the clinic. The next day we hauled to the clinic for further evaluation in the form of a venogram (which the podiatrist said wasn’t actually too bad—yay for some good news!) and he fitted Dorado with some really cool new “sneakers” to try out. Dorado’s shoes were wrapped on until we knew he liked them and they worked well for him. A week later, we were back at the clinic to have the shoes glued on, and Dorado’s been walking quite well ever since. But now, we wait. We wait to ensure his feet have stabilized, we wait to see if we can wean him off anti-inflammatories, and we wait to see where we go from here.

We still don’t know exactly what caused the founder, but we wonder if temperature swings and sugary grass might have had something to do with it. Dorado’s been on stall rest with “adventures” (i.e., hand walks and grazes) for about three and a half weeks now (and handling it remarkably well...he's won the "best stall rest patient" award at our barn!), and he’s fully regained his goofy, playful personality. Only time will tell what he’ll be able to do, but our veterinarian was incredibly encouraged at his check-up today.

Dorado is walking well in these “ultimate cuff” shoes.

Photo: Erica Larson

I’ve learned lots already and, since his recovery isn’t nearly over, I’m sure I’ll learn lots more. I’ll share some experiences in future posts, as well.

Our goals might have changed, as have our plans, but I’m still excited to reach our new ones: To ensure Dorado is happy, healthy, and comfortable in whatever he ends up doing.

Have your plans with an older horse changed rapidly?